November 2013


Gathering with friends and family,
each preparing something scrumptious
for a festive meal..
conversations that range
from warm to hot
and back to warm again..
stories that evoke laughter
and sentimental tears…
but nothing human
could celebrate more richly
than a walk into Thanksgiving Day’s golden hour.

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Still air
cools as Earth rolls up
and will soon hide the sun…
grasses glisten…

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birds sing and flit
on Cedar tree branches;
Meadowlarks serenade in the meadow,
then grow silent; one sits
atop a fence post, in the quiet,
the bronze light…

And then…
this evening,
there is an uncommon
sight: a “sundog” rainbow
in a bank of clouds
just before Earth rolls up
and tucks sun away for the evening—
this evening,
this Thanksgiving evening.

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Biak spread out in the sun.

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Mr. Darcy’s kisses

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Pearl, hopping.

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Bluebirds

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The shadows of bare, winter tree limbs

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Friends

Friends who tell stories.
Grateful for every one I heard in person in the last “coming in” week.
And this one, from dear friend Diana McLellan, a wonderful poet and writer—
her book of poetry is Making Hay
in response to our blog about feeding pheasants.
She was born in England.

I used to help my grandparents pluck the ones {pheasants} we got from Sandringham for Christmas dinner. They were absolutely beautiful. Also very “high” – granddad liked his game strong, and they were hung in the pantry until they almost fell apart. They were also raddled with lead pellets – I guess the Royals and their friends were lousy shots. We had to spit out little lead balls as we ate. Amazed we weren’t all poisoned.

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Children
free to explorenature

Celebrations

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With Family

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Eating together at table,
especially in candlelight,
or outside

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Homemade Music

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And Dancing

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The Sea

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Sky

Sun

Moon

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Water

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People who grow food
without chemicals

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People who work
to change systems,
so that all on the planet
thrive
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Native people
who are still willing
to teach us

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Juniper Berries

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Backyard Wildlife Garden

Last spring,
when the free-ranging chickens
ate the first plants–tomatoes–
I put in the new garden plot,
(which I had spent 18 months
building
with compost, alpaca beans, straw,
molasses, bone meal, blood meal,
lava sand, cardboard)
we decided to keep the chickens and guineas
here at the farmhouse
and Ann would raise the vegetables
at the pond house.
So, what to do with this
fertile garden plot?
All last winter, I had enjoyed a pheasant family
coming to eat the wheat grain
out of the straw in the garden.
So I decided I’d add plants
that wildlife enjoy.
I’d already planted asparagus beds,
so they remained
(though not for the wildlife.)
I transplanted some volunteer Lambs Quarter
Ann had removed from her flower beds.
It grew six feet tall over the summer,
surviving giant grasshoppers.
The grasshoppers demolished
some bare root bushes
I had planted.
Many native plants grew in the garden
voluntarily.
I let it go natural,
let the grasshoppers have their way
all summer.
There are lots of sunflowers,
now tempting tiny birds
with dried seeds.
The birds hang out
in the Lambs Quarter too.
Wildlife will also come
for the beautiful blue berries
on the old Juniper nearby.
A flock of Cedar Wax Wings
stayed a few hours
recently.

Though I sometimes wonder if I’ll
be able to grow vegetables
if I need to someday, for now
Ann’s vegetable growing–
in the high tunnel–is epic.
I can always do as our friends
Bruce and Barbara have done
to save their garden (from grasshoppers):
box the whole thing
with a six-foot tall covering
of bird netting.

This is the moment of truth
for the wildlife garden.
Now that winter days are here
I’m hoping for pheasant,
and maybe–just maybe–
the five deer that take morning strolls
just south of the hermitage,
will make their way up
to their garden.
I’m not intending to eat
wildlife; they are food
for each other, perhaps,
and my soul.

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Eurasian Collared-Dove couple

Snow fell yesterday,
Sunday,
afternoon,
for an hour—
vertically, softly,
silently—
and soon melted into the grass.
The cold stillness
holds
this morning.
Winter birds
have just begun
to visit the seed
and feeders in the Hackberry.
Red-Bellied Woodpecker,
three Black-Capped Chickadees,
two pair of Cardinals,
a couple of Juncos,
several Sparrows—Harris
and Black-Crowned—
an Eastern Bluebird
and the Eurasian Collared-Dove couple.
Though the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s
Backyard Feeder Watch
began a couple of weeks ago,
the birds here didn’t come to eat
until temperatures dropped below freezing
and snow began to fall.
I’m enjoying the quiet
with the smaller birds;
the big black bird clans
are still out in the pastures.
I catch glimpses of Red-Winged Blackbirds—
a flock in flight
disappearing momentarily
as the whole group makes a
quick,
synchronized
turn.
I heard the searing whistle
of hawk and harrier
before I saw them—
Red-Tail Hawks,
wings spread wide,
floating high on the current;
Northern Harriers gliding low
just above the dried prairie grass.

A retreat guest
discovered a teenaged possum
accidentally captured
in a lidless trash can.
Trapped,
standing in a few inches of rain water,
the possum looked pathetic
and she rescued it.
This confirms our decision
to leave chickens and guineas
in the barn now.
Every open barn door,
every step outside
increases their risk.
It takes everything we’ve got
to keep them cooped up—
though it’s a big barn—
on comfortable days.
And I miss their presence
in the yard,
their happy chattering,
even the guineas’ loud squaking
(though sometimes I can hear it,
even in the house!)
But here are the winter birds,
close. And sighting them—
a flash of red,
a tuxedoed tiny bird,
a blue one, cautiously perched on the water bowl,
a black and white checked one with a red head
upside down on the trunk of the Hackberry,
two gray ones, snuggled
on a limb, taking turns
grooming the other gently with their beaks—
always
thrills. Snow birds,
home for winter.

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…when we know and revere the wholeness of life, we can stay alert and steady. We know there is no private salvation. We join hands to find the ways the world self-heals—and see the chaos as seedbed for the future.

—Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown
Coming Back to Life. Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World

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This isn’t the history
of how the chicken
gets on the plate
for most of us
(that story is much worse)
but today is the day
three roosters
will be prepared
for our dinner table.
We raise chickens
primarily for eggs
and for eating insects
and aereating the soil.
Too, we very much enjoy their company.
But when there are too many roosters
or the roosters are too aggressive,
they have to go.
We never know whether
a rooster or hen
will come out of the incubator.
We now have three grown roosters
and three teenaged roosters.
The teenaged roosters and hens
live in a smaller outer pen
and coop
and we want to give them more space—
free run of the big barn
this winter.
We’ve tried to let the teenaged
hens and roosters
in the barn with the mature chickens,
but the mature roosters
chase the younger hens
who aren’t big enough yet
to come away unscathed.
Six roosters become problematic,
so yesterday
Ann caught the three older ones
and isolated them in an outer pen,
next to where the teenagers live.
Today, she and Frank
will butcher them
(with as little trauma to the rooster
as possible. Placed upside down in a cone,
their necks will be quickly slit.)

A fourth grown rooster—
the oldest, the most beautiful; the one
with his flock of three hens,
one guinea and a cat—
disappeared a week or so ago.
They were all still free-ranging
around the farm then
and he must have ventured
far enough
to catch the eye of a hawk,
or coyote—both of which
are coming closer
these autumn days,
when their food
is more scarce.

It’s good to know these things.
It’s good to keep the food chain
in mind;
it’s good to know
who our food is.

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We planted a pecan tree
in the backyard
25 years ago,
then I moved away
for a long time.
This is the seventh pecan season
since I’ve returned
and the first time
there are pecans.
Overcoming drought,
bag worms,
the tree has had to work hard
to stay alive,
let alone produce fruit.
But this year
everything must be just right—
and the squirrel
is delighted!
Didn’t see the squirrel
all last winter. Not sure
if it’s the same squirrel,
but every morning,
I watch a squirrel
climb the tree,
latch onto a pecan
and carry it away.
It seems to bury it
in the grass,
though, upon later investigation,
I can never find disturbed grass.
No, I wouldn’t steal the squirrel’s pecan;
I’m trying to find out if it is burying them,
or has just dropped it.
Burying, I surmise.

In the afternoon or evening,
I go out and gather pecans—
a few each day.
The husks aren’t fully opened yet,
so I find the ones that I can reach,
that are open, and latch onto the nut
before squirrel does.
From the looks of the ground
below the trunk of the tree,
squirrel is way ahead of me—
and this squirrel eats
as it goes.
I’m saving up,
for a pie.
Glad for the pecans—
and Squirrel,
though I may not be
so happy to share
when it discovers
the birdseed I put out each day
for my other winter companions.

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The Pecans I’ve gathered so far—and Squirrel’s leftovers

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